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Goldoni, the Freemasons and the Mysteries: the female discovery trope in 18th century theatre

May 9, 2018 @ 6:30 pm


Masonic Theatre

Join us for an entertaining talk when Professor Matthew Leigh introduces his research on elements of freemasonry in early 18th century European comic dramas. Matthew is particularly interested in the comedies of Carlo Goldoni (1707–93), whose play, A Servant of Two Masters had a successful recent West End and Broadway revival as One Man, Two Guv’nors, staring James Corden.

Goldoni’s Le donne curiose (1753) is one of several French and Italian dramas responding to the extraordinary growth of freemasonry across Europe after the foundation of the London Grand Lodge in 1717. This work demonstrates a close affinity with Pierre Clément’s Les fri-maçons (Paris, 1737) and Francesco Griselini’s I liberi muratori (Venice, 1754).

This presentation examines how such plays introduce key features of masonic ceremonies and how they identify with a continuation of ancient mysteries. The discovery trope in 18th century drama may originate from the initiation in c.1712 of Elizabeth St. Leger (later Aldworth) in an Irish Lodge, after she was discovered observing a meeting.

Please visit freemasonrymuseum.eventbrite.co.uk to reserve your ticket.

A Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, Matthew Leigh is the Professor of Classical Languages and Literature, Faculty of Classics. His recent publications include Comedy and the Rise of Rome (Oxford, 2004) and From Polypragmon to Curiosus. Ancient Concepts of Curious and Meddlesome Behaviour (Oxford, 2013). This presentation arises from recent research using resources at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry that provide an insight into Masonic ceremonies and the discovery trope.


May 9, 2018
6:30 pm


Freemasons’ Hall
60 Great Queen Street
London, WC2B 5AZ United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7395 9257